A visit with Stan Moeller at his studio in York, Maine
Text by Bonnie Gangelhoff, Photos by Deb Cram
This story was featured in the August 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art magazine August 2012 print edition here, or purchase the Southwest Art magazine August 2012 digital download here. Or simply click here to subscribe to Southwest Art magazine and never miss a story!
Describe your studio. I have 600 square feet of floor space in an old, converted mill building with very high ceilings. I have two large north-light windows and three east-facing windows. I’ve added a couple of banks of full-spectrum lights on the ceiling. I have a loft for storage of frames and rolls of linen, and lots of old cupboards for storing paints, canvases, panels, art books, and paint boxes. The Salmon Falls River, which originally provided power for the mill, is right outside my window. I grew up with a river in my backyard, and I live within walking distance of the York River now. It’s very grounding for me to hear the water spilling over the rocks while I paint.
What is the history of the building? The mill was built in the 1820s. It’s very, very large with five floors. It’s gone through many transitions. I think it started out as a lumber mill, then became a textile mill and, at one point, a shoe company. In fact there’s a bunch of little shoemaker eyelets embedded into the floor. Very cool. The owner started creating spaces for a few friends to rent as art studios, and when I heard about it, I called right away. I got a north corner studio on the third floor, a very prized spot for a painter. I’ve been here for more than 10 years now.
What do you enjoy about the studio?It’s a dedicated space for my art. I can leave a painting mess and stretch my canvases with no distractions. There are 70 other studios here, including ones for woodworkers, photographers, and theater and dance groups, and there are music-recording studios. I really like the camaraderie. The whole building is just buzzing with creativity.
How do you describe your style of work? Modern impressionism with a little contemporary realism and a smidge of the Ashcan School. It is hard to pin a name on it because my painting style evolves, and painting styles evolve in general. I like to work alla prima and do my paintings all in one session, which can make for a long day sometimes. Working wet into wet gives the painting a look that you can’t get any other way.
How does working in Maine influence your paintings? It’s had a huge influence. There’s only about a million people living in the state of Maine, so there are still a lot of wide-open spaces. Within a few minutes’ drive I can be on the Atlantic Ocean and, within an hour, in the White Mountains. The Portland Museum of Art is less than an hour away, and the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland—home of paintings by three generations of the Wyeth family—is less than two hours away from my home. Maine has such a rich history in American art, past and present.
What is your favorite subject matter? Right now, the figure. I like to paint the figure in everyday life scenes. I sometimes do portraits, but I really like working with narrative. The setting may be a small street in Italy or a sandy beach on the Cote d’Azur in France. I recently did a series of paintings of a model reading in the sunlight in the courtyard of the Pitti Palace in Florence. Hopper said, “All I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.” I want to take that a step further to paint the light on anything—a street, water, sand, a tree, or a person. My studio is wherever I find the most intriguing light.
If your studio was on fire, what is the one thing you would save? If I only had one thing, it would be my handmade paint box, which I use with a Gloucester easel. My friend Allan Breed is one of the finest furniture makers and woodcarvers in the country. He’s lectured on early American furniture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Allan made me two beautiful paint boxes from exotic Egyptian cedar and mahogany. I can always replace my Hughes easel and even most of my rare, out-of-print books, but my paint box is unique.
Do you listen to music while you work? I put myself through art school by playing music, so it is very important to me and inspires me while I’m painting. My musical palette is eclectic and runs from the Gipsy Kings to Tom Waits to Miles Davis. I listen to a lot of singer-songwriters like the Beatles and Green Day and, at times, even classical music. I can remember exactly what I was listening to during key moments of some of my favorite paintings.
What is the one place people will never find you? A mall.
Waterhouse Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA; Gardner Colby Galleries, Naples, FL; Lupine Gallery, Monhegan Island, ME; Scott Bundy Galleries, Kennebunkport, ME; Bowersock Gallery, Provincetown, MA, and Mount Dora, FL; The Artists Eye, North Hampton, NH; Fore Street Gallery, Portland, ME; Art 3 Gallery, Manchester, NH; Southport Galleries, Southport, CT; Camilla Richman Fine Arts, Osterville, MA; www.stanmoeller.com
Featured in the August 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art magazine August 2012 digital download
Southwest Art magazine August 2012 print edition
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